Judith Johnson Interview
Posted on 06 January 2011. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Judith Johnson, theatre, screen and radio dramatist
Tell us about your writing background- what you’ve written and what you’re currently writing
Been writing for over 20 years, have written for various theatres including National and Royal Court, Liverpool Playhouse and Everyman. Lots of experience writing for young people and theatre in education companies, including YTouring, Red Ladder and National Theatre Connections. Also written a number of plays for radio and was on writing team for Westway (BBC World Service Soap) for five years. TV work includes Grange Hill, The Bill and a number of projects for BBC education, including ‘First Sex’ which was nominated for a children’s BAFTA. First feature film, Strawberry Fields, co-written with director Frances Lea, to be released 2011. Musical, Goodbye Barcelona, to be produced at Arcola Theatre, November 2011. Currently working on script for Razed Roof Inclusive Theatre Company, entitled Brave New Food.
Other work besides writing; eg. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works/worked for/against your own writing
Lots of experience as tutor/workshop leader. Examples: Creative Writing teacher for Clean Break theatre, workshops abroad for British Council (Turkey and Brazil), most recent workshop for Royal Albert Hall with home educators and their children. Dramaturg for a number of people and organisations, both formally and informally (YTouring, Arcola, Recorded Delivery amongst others). RLF Fellow. I find that this work really helps my writing, often re-inspires me and makes me think about the processes and application of my own creativity
Who are your favourite writers/influences and why?
People: more inspired by other people than other writers. Favourite playwrights, however, are Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Alan Bleasedale, Willy Russell, Stephen Sondheim, Kay Mellor, Joe Penhall, Caryl Churchill, Jackie Kay, anyone who ever wrote for the Sopranos.
How, when and why did you first start writing?
Since childhood, but entered playwrighting competition age 23 and won. Been playwrighting ever since.
How did you get your first agent/ commission/publication? Can you tell us about the process/journey?
I was shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award. My then agent was just starting out and he read all the shortlisted writers, liked my script and asked if he could take me on. He was at William Morris Agency at the time, a large well established agency, so I said yes!
What’s the worst thing about writing?
Getting down to it.
And the best?
Managing to get down to it.
Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing
You have to learn to take criticism, especially when writing for TV, but if anyone ever approaches me to tell me what I’ve done wrong straight after watching a play I’ve written, I hate them.
What was your breakthrough moment?
What inspires you to write?
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